WASHINGTON CITY – A former neo-Nazi white supremacist activist and recruiter who, in a rare move, left the movement and turned his life and message around to reach local and national audiences with a message of hope against hate, T.J. Leyden, now a Southern Utah resident, finds himself a speaker without a voice due to a stroke and brain tumor discovered this year. Medical expenses and needs are crippling him and his family and local businesses are stepping up to help, with the public’s participation.
One community member who met T.J. Leyden while he was speaking to local youth is the owner of Dollar Cuts in Washington City and has organized a Dollar Cuts fundraiser for the Leyden family Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Details follow below.
T.J. Leyden background
At the age of 14, after his parents divorced, T.J. Leyden was an angry and violent youth who found community among skinheads, partying, drinking, fighting. By the time he was 15, he had formed his own group, later joined the military for three years until he received a “less than honorable” discharge. His involvement in the white power movement – separatism, Naziism, or national socialism – increased unabated over 15 years. His primary job, he said in a Question-and-Answer forum, was propaganda and recruiting although he served in every capacity from soldier to leadership during his participation in the separatist movement.
Until he left.
T.J. Leyden had a change of heart, in part as he considered his children whom he did not want immersed in a hateful lifestyle. He wanted them to “be children,” he said in one video interview. As he turned, he became an activist for anti-hate, for tolerance. His goal, he said, is that everyone can be a “former,” to take the name “former and make it cool.”
Raised Irish Catholic, T.J. Leyden was baptized into the Mormon church in 2002 after leaving the separatist movement; a choice for which he said in a testimony on MormonConverts.com he has been judged more harshly than for any tattoos.
Since becoming a “former,” T.J. Leyden has been a keynote speaker and educator about the separatist movement and an advocate for tolerance, T. J. Leyden has been featured in Time Magazine and in episodes of the History Channel’s “Gangland” series. He was the guest speaker at a White House Conference on Hate under President Bill Clinton. He has worked with local and national law enforcement agencies, the Pentagon and FBI and, according to one website, is “one of the nation’s most powerful spokespersons for tolerance.”
Now, due to a stroke experienced during surgery to remove a brain tumor, T.J. Leyden is a speaker without a voice.
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SAVE: Leaving the Skinhead, a T.J. Leyden interview via YouTube.com
Health problems 2013
Julie Leyden, T.J. Leyden’s wife, said the brain tumor was discovered around Easter of this year. Surgery was scheduled, undertaken, then stopped due to complications triggered by the stroke. T.J. Leyden was left paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak.
Another surgery was held in September and successfully removed 90-95 percent of the tumor. However, for the time being, T.J. Leyden remains unable to speak.
Due to medical expenses, Julie Leyden said her family lost their home and has moved in with relatives.
“Its been a pretty horrible year,” Julie Leyden said.
Still, there is hope. Friends of the Leydens have begun to organize fundraisers to help pay for the mounting medical expenses.
Donations and fundraisers
From its business proceeds Oct. 15, Dollar Cuts will donate $5 from every haircut and all proceeds from the sale of glitter tattoos to T.J. Leyden and his family.
Payless Shoes and Zion Harley Davidson have also donated door prizes for the fundraiser.
“We truly know we are blessed by the out-pouring of friends, co-workers and family willing and wanting to help,” Julie Leyden posted on the event’s Facebook page. “I don’t know how to explain the tremendous impact all of this is having on our families lives both financially and spiritually.”
Event details and donation options
- When: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Where: Dollar Cuts, 740 W. Telegraph St., Washington
- Facebook: Fundraiser for T.J. Leyden
- Donations: T.J. Battles Cancer
- Contact: Call 435-986-1115 to book appointment or just walk-in.
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St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
Email: [email protected]
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